Liam Daltun’s letter to Sean Matgamna of events in the Irish Communist Group in 1965.

The Irish Republican & Marxist History Project would like to thank Sean Matgamna for this Liam Daltun letter that deals with events in the Irish Communist Group in 1965, an important episode in the history of the Irish left. The ICG that was set up in 1964 and was renamed the Irish Workers’ Group in 1966. Matgamna introduction to Daltun’s letter below                                                                

258 Liverpool Road, Islington, London N1. 19 August 1965.

Dear Sean,

Sorry I didn’t get around to writing to you earlier. I’ve been very busy since I last saw you. Today is the first day I’ve been able to take off work. Until next Sunday week at least I’ll be devoting myself to reading and swotting up on the ideas, history, etc., of the Marxist and Stalinist movements. It’s not a lot of time, but it’s about all I’ll be able to afford.

Philip Flynn, Gerry Lawless, and myself met Ted Grant last Sunday and we had a discussion in the course of this week. Ted is preparing some material, quotations, etc., for a reply to the Theses on Trotskyism. We’ll meet again next Saturday morning at WIR and have a discussion which we’ll tape-record. (I bought two tapes for Arthur Deane’s recorder today. They give over six hours playing time for £2-5-0). From this and other material we’ll prepare our statement on Stalinism.

I went to Clapham Common today and brought a lot of stuff from G Healy’s New Park Publications – mainly pamphlets. I also got Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Spain by Felix Morrow. I gave Peter Taaffe the money for Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution. This is possibly the most important – have you got it? – since the Appendix to Volume 3 contains just about all that is required in the matter of quotations from the Bolshevik leaders on the central question in dispute.

I’m re-reading The Revolution Betrayed at the moment. It’s seven years since I last read it, I’m ashamed to say: at that time I wouldn’t have absorbed this kind of thing at all as well as I would now. Peter Taaffe’s lent me The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution, by Harold Isaacs. When I’ve got through all this stuff, plus anything else of relevance I can get round to, I should feel a bit more stoked up on the theoretical ideas and history.

You’ll probably be wondering what’s happened since you returned to Manchester. Here’s what. As I said, we met Ted Grant. With him and later among ourselves we worked out our attitude and tactics for the weekly meeting. We insisted on Gerry making a conscious effort to control himself, even if Brendan Clifford attempted to provoke him to raise a shout. (“Count ten before speaking, etc.”)

On membership: Mick Murphy moved that Philip Flynn be removed from full membership and placed on the list of Associate Members (expulsion of a sort). Flynn defended himself in a very good speech and remained a full member by 8 votes to six with a few abstentions (against were P Murphy, Brendan and Angela Clifford, M Murphy, and two others).

Nan, my wife, who was formerly a full member but went on the associate list because she couldn’t always attend meetings, applied for full membership again. This was opposed by the four above-named. They said she would have to do a probationary six weeks again. Of course she’s been doing a hell of a lot of typing, stencil-cutting, etc., all the time – for example, she did half of last month’s Solas. She became a full member by ten votes to six.

There was consternation of a kind as you can imagine at this kind of thing. Then two probationary members’ names were presented for acceptance – Pat Mallin and William Glenn. The latter is English, from the North of England, and a pro-Chinese Stalinist. He joined the ICG because it was “the only functioning Marxist-Leninist group in London”.

He was taken aback slightly to find unanimity on his own and P Mallin’s acceptance. (These were, I think, the only two unanimous votes of the night!)

P Mallin you’ll meet later, no doubt. Politically he’s a bit Stone Age. Became disenchanted with Stalinism when it rejected Joe [Stalin]; suspects any revolutionary organisation that doesn’t pay its respects to his memory. To say he abhors Trotsky is to put it mildly.

I enclose a copy of a motion which was dealt with. (I don’t think you’ve seen this?) We had decided to oppose it, seeing in it an attempt to take the coming discussion on vital questions out of the group – or to raise it over the headers of the members.

Apart from B Clifford’s slighting references to “this little Trotsky matter which has to be cleared up”, it is clear that he and his immediate supporters do not want Stalinism demolished in front of the members. It will become all to clear to them (the members) that standing as he does (like Desmond Greaves) on Stalinist “theoretical” positions, it is only to be expected that he should say that socialism, socialist propaganda, etc., are inopportune at the present stage in Ireland (as Greaves does). Thus making himself an anti-revisionist revisionist!

Unfortunately, this motion was carried after a discussion that was interrupted by comings and going – these latter, delaying as they did the vote, and causing a new, somewhat neutral, member to withdraw an amendment (which would have been voted on first, and more than likely carried), helped get the motion through. I intend putting a motion next Sunday which will I hope get the support of the majority and destroy this manoeuvre.

By the way, I’d like to know what you think of the motion.

If you’ve got anything already on paper relevant to our reply to the Theses on Trotskyism, would you post it on to me? After Saturday’s meeting with Ted we’ll draft our reply, stencil it and run it off. All this will have to be done by next Wednesday at the latest, as the vote comes up on the fifth (5th) of September.

Just one more thing. Some people (including Pat Murphy, believe it or not) are asking where the Trotskyists get their funds from. (“The State Department spends a lot of money on anti-communist organisations”, etc. etc.) This is now the level. Myths die slowly, eh?

Keep in touch, Sean. I hope this is legible, not too difficult to read.

Yours, Liam Daltun.


4 responses to “Liam Daltun’s letter to Sean Matgamna of events in the Irish Communist Group in 1965.

  1. Pingback: Liam Daltun’s Letter To Sean Matgamna Of Events In The Irish Communist Group In 1965 | The Cedar Lounge Revolution·

  2. Pingback: HISTORY OF THE IRISH LEFT | Paddy Healy's Blog·

  3. Irish Marxist History Proect
    Liam Daltun’s letter to Sean Matgamna of events in the Irish Communist Group in London in 1965.
    Full Letter and Comment
    The Project is an ongoing study dedicated to the archiving and documenting of Republican and Marxist History in Ireland.
    I was not a member of the ICG, but I used to get the Magazine Irish Communist. I Joined the IWG in London in 1967 at the urging of the late Liam Boyle, my former school friend in Clonmel CBS who was then working on the London Buses.
    (The Photograph is of the young Liam Daltún)

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